With the lockdown still underway and cases of Covid-19 rising fast, football fans are worried that the upcoming Euro 2021 tournament might be postponed again. The tournament was a casualty of the epidemic last year as it was canceled.
Fans are optimistic that the tournament will commence on time but they should be aware of the fact that unlike other previous international tournaments, this was has a major difference because of the ongoing pandemic. Social-distancing will be in place at the tournament so that the lives of the fans, players, and other staff members can not be endangered.
It seems as if all the underdogs of the tournament have been placed in one group, even though Italy is by far a superior side to the rest of the teams in the group but we shouldn’t forget that they failed to qualify for the world cup 3 years ago. The Azzuri managed by Roberto Mancini is set to fight for their lost glory and with the likes of quality stars such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile, Federico Chiesa, and upcoming rising prospects such as Nicolò Zaniolo, it seems very much likely that they might achieve it. However they face off against a very strong defensive Turkish side with the likes of rock-solid defenders who play for the best teams in the world, Çağlar Söyüncü is the standout name who is having an excellent domestic season with Leicester City, Juventus’s Merih Demiral and Ozan Kabak of Liverpool are also in contention. Şenol Güneş the Turkish coach aims to upset the big teams and go far into the knockout stages. Wales will attend their third major tournament in five years after a 57-year long wait. A sluggish beginning under Ryan Giggs forced them to face an uphill battle but after beating Hungary in a “champ brings home all the glory match” in Cardiff, they completed 2020 unbeaten in six matches. Wales will be looking to replicate their success of Euro 2016 when they reached the semifinals. The Swiss team is talented and the key players such as Xhaka, Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Ricardo Rodríguez, Fabian Schär, or Haris Seferovic have played together for a long time. So after three consecutive eliminations in the round of 16 in major tournaments, they will be looking to make a strong start and achieve some success.
Russia’s team has changed throughout the last couple of years since they hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Many players have retired and some have been out due to major injuries for a long time. Russia doesn’t have a consistent goalkeeper after the retirement of long-time servant Igor Akinfeev. They would be looking to impress even without key players. On the other hand, this seems like the best opportunity for Belgium to win a major title. Their qualification campaign was flawless as they became the first team to achieve 30 out of 30 points, they scored 40 goals and conceded just 3, their team is filled with world-class players and have vast options in each position. With the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, and Kevin de Bruyne, The team seems set to announce their dominance to the footballing world. Finland won their Nations League group and then qualified for the first time in their history for the European Championships. The core of the team is the same as that which qualified for the Under-21 Euros in 2009, under Markku Kanerva, but it took them almost a decade to excel at the senior level. The team has a special bond and identity on and off the field which is crucial for attaining success. Denmark scored a lot of goals in qualification but still just merely qualified, they would be looking at their 1992 major trophy win for inspiration because they would need all the help they can get to upset the stronger teams in this group.
- North Macedonia
Dutch young talent has burst onto the main stage of football in the past 2 years with the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt moving to big teams. The Oranje Team reached the final of the Nations League before losing to Portugal. In the qualifying rounds, they managed to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2 against their biggest rivals, Germany. It was a big win that rejuvenated the Dutch team and they would be looking for a repeat of 1988. Austria had an easy path to the tournament on paper but they made it hard for themselves after losing to Poland and Israel, fortunately for them, they managed to just qualify off the back of some good performances. Ukraine had their best qualifying campaign as they won 6 games and drew too, Shevchenko would be looking to take this momentum deep into the tournament and compete with the bigger sides. North Macedonia is the dark horse of the group, teams shouldn’t take them for granted though as they are known to upset big sides on their day.
- Czech Republic
After just missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it seems like it might come home this time for England. They will feel at home in this year’s grand tournament as they will be playing at Wembley in London. Gareth Southgate has an opportunity to finally bring silverware because this time around the team has an exciting bunch of talent with the likes of Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, etc, England look set for another deep run in an international event. They will be facing a tough test though against their group nation Croatia who beat them in the semi-finals of the World Cup 3 years ago. The captain of Croatia Luka Modric is still a force to be reckoned with, partnered by Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Rakitic. The Croatians would want Mario Mandzukic to start scoring from the start to have any chance of progressing through to the later stages. The Czech Republic and Scotland are the weaker teams in the group and the sheer class of England and Croatia would prevent the weaker teams from qualifying.
The generation which won back-to-back European championships in 2008 and 2012 has almost disappeared off the face of the Spanish National Team. They were unbeaten in qualification under Luis Enrique and Robert Moreno and would hope to take that momentum into the grand fiesta of football. As much as Spain misses their old generation, the new one is still good enough to compete with the very best. Spain would face familiar foes in the group in the shape of Sweden who they beat 3-0 in qualification. Reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup was a success for the Swedish National Team and with players like Alexander Isak, Victor Lindelöf, and Emil Forsberg, etc, they would be looking to repeat the feat and also seek revenge over Spain. The group also has the likes of Poland and Slovakia. Robert Lewandowski would have to be at the top of his form to avoid humiliation like last time around in the FIFA World Cup 2018. Slovakia on the other hand was the Play-Off B winner and booked their place late in the tournament.
We have the best group of the lot in the end, with the defending European Champions Portugal, the defending World Champions France, and the tactical geniuses Germany altogether. France who lost the final against Portugal in Euro 2016 would be seeking revenge and hoping to show their class early on. Portugal would be hoping that 5-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo is up to the task and make sure a repeat 2016 is possible, Portugal also won the UEFA Nations League and are in hot red form. Out of form, Germany would want to give Joachim Low a good send-off as the German coach is coming to his last international tournament with Die Mannschaft. This group truly is “The Group of Death”. Hungary is the fourth team in the group, who on paper has no chance of proceeding in the tournament due to the sheer strength of the fellow teams in the group. One thing is clear it is going to be a cracking start to the tournament as one favorite would have to be eliminated early on.